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Bessent: Record black voter turnout is the perfect response to voter suppression efforts

Voting at the Northport City Hall voting location

Voting at the Northport City Hall voting location in Northport, Ala. Tuesday. (Nov. 6, 2012) Credit: AP

In a priceless comeuppance for Republicans who tried to suppress the Democratic vote in the 2012 election, black voters, who are overwhelmingly Democrats, turned out at a rate that surpassed that of whites for the first time on record.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau 66.2 percent of eligible blacks voted, compared to 64.1 percent of eligible non-Hispanic whites.

And among all racial groups and Hispanics, only black turnout increased significantly in 2012 compared to the historic 2008 election when Barack Obama became the first African-American President of the United States. In 2008, 64.7 percent of eligible blacks voted compared to 66.1 percent of eligible non-Hispanic whites.

In the months before the 2012 election Republicans in many states pushed unwarranted voter ID requirements and attempted to scale back voter registration and early voting and otherwise limit voting times.

Republicans deny it, but the transparent objective was to suppress the Democratic vote. Unfortunately that meant suppressing the vote among blacks, most of whom are loyal Democrats.

Blacks’ ire at the notion that anyone would try to interfere with that hard-won right is likely not the only reason so many went to the polls.

The Obama campaign and civil rights groups ran aggressive get-out-the vote efforts — although blacks turned out at similarly high rates in deeply red southern states where the campaign didn’t devote many resources. Some black voters may have been energized by the dismissive Republican narrative of makers-versus-takers. And some — like majorities of Hispanic, Asian female and young voters — no doubt simply wanted to see a political kindred spirit reelected.

Whatever the reason, the record black turnout was the best possible response to the attempt to discourage voting.